Friday, December 31, 2010

Gravity and waggery

Christopher Smart is one of my favourite poets (ticks all the boxes: complex, given to madness and visions, wildly competent with metre) and his piece for his cat Jeoffry (his spelling), from the Jubilate Agno, is one of my favourite poems. I also like cows and was reminded of this the other day when I met four - the two up there, and their neighbours across the road who wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.
And it got me thinking of cows, and one thing led to another and I next thing I know I'm writing poetry like I swore I never would again. I thought I'd sneak in here on the busiest night of the year when no one is watching.

For I Will Consider the Importance of Cows (after Christopher Smart)

And their ready-made suede.

For they are large and imposing.

For they have no desire to impose.

For they stare at you benignly.

For they chew their cud with care.

For they bring forth little cows.

For they share their thick milk

Hot, shiny, and capped with fat cream.

For they stand with full dignity.

For they do not resent the sun.

For they will move for the barking dog.

For they will not budge in the rain.

For they are often the perfect chestnut colour.

For their delicate feminine legs more than amply support their ponderous weight.

For their tails swing like fine chains.

For their udders hang like church bells.

For they are utterly unconcerned.

For their eyes are black and dull

Yet they notice all things.

For they are peaceful and meditative.

For they have always been.

For no time has been unhindered by cows.

For they are sacred in some lands.

For they, the cows, do not care either way.

For they live on farms.

For they are too docile to be feral.

For they are civilised and composed.

For they have an expanse of teeth.

For they choose not to bite each other.

For they prefer harmony and bliss.

For they become a vast range of foods.

For they become stock in soup.

For they are the meat in curries.

For their butter covers breads.

For their cream thickens custard.

For they are in pies.

For you can serve them hot or cold.

For they become clothes.

For young people learn to walk in shoes borne of their skin.

For older people stay warm in their supple skin.

For most people carry their goods in their skin.

For some people lay their skin on the floor, near the fire.

For they are large and can moo.

For they moo to communicate.

For they will not moo in malice.

For they are gentle and gracious.

For they graze, and sleep still on their feet.


  1. That was fun. Cows are such interesting animals and certainly inspirational. Thanks for the poetic rumination on them.

  2. Except for the meaty bits, I love your vision of the noble cow. Your use of "utterly" just after "udders" is very sly. In Ireland I came upon a herd of cows & soon found myself in their midst. Such enormous, beautiful animals. May they live in peace.

    And you, dear Baxter--may you have a happy new year!

  3. It was fun for me too Shybiker, as was meeting the cows. Thank you for reading!

    Charlotte, I hesitated about the meat references but in the end followed Smart's example. It's a first draft so I might yet cut the meat out (so to speak). Thanks for the greeting - happy new year to you too!